RIVERTON, Kan. — Ethan Shawver was starting to think he wasn't going to play college football.

"It's been a dream of mine for a long time," Shawver said. "I didn't even think I was until here recently when I started getting people looking at me. It was pretty cool. It gave me an opportunity, so I'm going to see what I can make happen with it."

Shawver, a running back, linebacker and placekicker for Riverton last fall, signed with MidAmerica Nazarene (Olathe, Kan.) on Thursday afternoon at the high school.

The Pioneers, an NAIA school, went 7-4 last season and 2-3 in the Heart of America Conference.

"I visited there a couple weekends ago, and I really liked the environment they had," Shawver said. "They are family-based. I liked the coaches and met some of the players, got to ask them questions. I just really liked it there and felt at home."

Shawver, 5-foot-7, 205 pounds, rushed for 1,285 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall, recorded 76 tackles and converted 25-of-26 extra points. He earned first-team honors on the CNC all-conference team and Class 2A all-state team.

Shawver doesn't know what the MNU coaches have in mind for him.

"I'm not sure yet, but whenever I told him I preferred running back, he was real excited," Shawver said. "Hopefully that's a good sign. I get to run the ball."

Shawver, the son of Summer and Jim Hambright, started all four years for the Rams.

"There is definitely a big age gap between 14-year-olds and 18-year-olds," Shawver said. "It was fun to get beat around a little bit, but by the time I became a senior, it was just an everyday kind of thing."

"When it was third (down)-and-3, third-and-4, he was our go-to guy," Rams coach Johnny Mallatt said. "He probably had more carries than anybody. He's like a bowling ball ... he's hard to tackle, and he's quicker than a lot of people thought he was. He was always up inside, getting the hard yards and then he'd break it outside."

Shawver signed in front of his family and several teammates and classmates.

"I'd like to thank my teammates for supporting me," he said. "I've been playing with the same kids since third grade, peewee football. It means a lot that they stuck with me throughout the years. They are here now celebrating with me, and that means a lot.

"And then the linemen, too. Without the linemen I could not have done anything at all. So I thank them as well."

Shawver also has been selected to play in this summer's Kansas Shrine Bowl in Topeka. Mallatt will be one of the East team coaches.

"Ethan was looking at the 36 members of the East squad," Mallatt said. "He told me 'Coach, all these guys are bigger than me. I'll be the shortest guy there.' And I said 'No, Ethan, I will be.' ''

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